All right, I'm biased. The first band I ever saw, and one of the first albums I ever bought. And to be honest the vocals on side 1 are a little, uh, homespun. But the sheer inventiveness of this seminal British rock band forgives all. With a more laid-back acoustic/electirc sound compared to their first album, the blues receding into the past, on this their second album rock music finally spreads its wings without losing that warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart. And that flute. Silvery, mystical, breathy - not raunchy like Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull but misty like a river valley at sunrise. Side 2 is mostly instrumental and I would kill to keep it, it is simply sublime. Even the vocals on Passing Through get it right this time. Down Along the Grove, Travelling on - like Vaughan Williams' lark ascending, or Caravan's Land of Grey and Pink, nothing evokes that languid Summer afternoon feeling better than English music in its gentle melodic prime. If you ever buy one English rock album, buy this one.
Personnel changes led to a broader range of musical styles for this second album, Mick Bradley replaced Mick Rushton behind the drums, but the real difference was rhythm guitarist Martin Quittenton, who left to work with Rod Stewart was replaced by multi instrumentalist Steve Jollife, who added sax, flute and harpsicord to the mix. The boogie rock of 'Reflection', still evident in tracks like 'Contemporary chick con song' but with the added bonus of some fine sax play to support Martin Pugh's guitar lead, were supplemented with a mixture of light and heavyish rock with some jazz added to the mix here and there. Highlights! 'Supposed to be free' and 'Passing through' are well worth a mention, but the albums killer track has got to be the wonderful 16 minute plus of 'Another travelling tune' which makes this a must have album on its own. From the rambling flute opening through the laid back bluesy guitar riff that follows, this sets the trend for wonderful guitar/sax interplay, with Kieron White's distinctive vocals adding to the mix before the guitar/sax/flute combination takes it through highs and lows to its conclusion. I once heard this described as the first example of 'progressive blues', have a listen, you'll see why. The bonus tracks are the a & b sides of their two single releases, and do not let the side down. If you think 1969 was all blues and psychadelia, try this, you'll see it wasn't. Gripping stuff from a band who were vastly underrated.
From the great era of British Rock/Blues, Steamhammer never hit the heights of Free or Jethro Tull but I think their 1st 2 albums - this one and Steamhammer - Reflection are amongst the best of the genre.
Mk 2 also created an almost ambient rock atmosphere akin to Roxy Music's Avalon, I know I listen to a lot sitting on planes or beaches. Please give it a try Steamhammer may be long gone but I'll always love this album....